This may sound ridiculous, silly, even mean, but when we examine some of the twisted teachings of baby trainers we may find that though they don't come right out and say that they hate babies, underlying all their talk, it seems they may in fact think that they are a little....evil.
Before I get started I should probably admit some of my own bias. I believe that babies are born innocent. Babies are perfect, pure and amazing creatures. Human, but yet to earn any human foibles. They come with personalities certainly- some are "easy" others more sensitive or fussy. Though they have distinct traits, they are not bad, mean or manipulative.
Speaking of manipulation, lets look at the definition for that word, just so we know exactly what we are talking about. The Internet furnished this definition:
"adjective /məˈnipyələtiv/ /-ˌlātiv/
- Characterized by unscrupulous control of a situation or person
- - she was sly, selfish, and manipulative
- Of or relating to manipulation of an object or part of the body
- - a manipulative skill"
What do I notice when I start to read about how to properly sleep train my baby?
1. The focus is often on the parent's needs, not the child's and focus particularly on routines.
I would be the first to admit that any mother must meet some of her own needs before she can properly care for a child. You can't feed another when you yourself are starving nor can you be a fantastic mother when you are totally sleep deprived and crazy.
Yes, parents have needs. Sleep is one of these needs. Routines are actually a good thing for children. But guess what- children will make their own routine. Really- they do this. And no they have not been reading "Save Our Sleep" or "Baby Wise."
I have four children. They have all, after a few weeks and without my forcing anything, settled into a sleep routine. They often wake at the same time, nap at around the same time, and feed at certain times. This is normal and natural as evidenced by the fact that a nursing mother will quickly start to produce milk or notice her letdown just before her baby wakes. They have not mastered a scheduling technique- they have just found their own unique rhythm, as nature intended.
May you find it somewhat difficult despite this to perfectly orchestrate your life, doctor's appointments, date times, etc? Yes, possibly. But part of being a parent is losing yourself in it, learning humility and learning sacrifice. Is learning to sacrifice, serve, and love another a bad thing? Is doing this for our children proof that they are master manipulators? Personally, I think not.
2. They must self soothe.
Over and over again when reading about sleep methods I find advice to not nurse the baby to sleep, bottle feed it to sleep, have it rely on a thumb or pacifier or special blanket or anything else to go to sleep.
So, not only should you not sleep with your baby, nurse him to sleep or be anywhere near him, even artificial soothers should be avoided. Heaven forbid your baby want to be rocked to sleep! How dare you!
What on earth is so wrong with being soothed to sleep? You could probably make the argument that even full blown adults soothe themselves or are soothed to sleep. Maybe they sleep best with their partner there, with music in the back round, in their own bed, or after reading for a few minutes. People need each other, they need love, and yes, they need to be soothed. Babies are no different.
3. Routines are fairly rigid, even for very young babies, and are set forth by a supposed expert.
If I were to write a parenting book it would be short. It would not make any money and it would never make me rich. Here is the basic layout:
Chapter 1- Listen to your instincts and to your baby. Forget about all the experts. Really- they usually just get in the way and make you nervous.
Chapter 2- When your instincts are not working for you or when you are just frustrated, talk to other loving mothers whose children are functional, loving, and what you would like your children to become. Mother to mother wisdom can be very powerful and helpful.
There would be no three or four hour feeding schedule. There would be not set amount of time to nurse. There would be no prescribed nap schedule or anger over the manipulative or non compliant baby. No- there would just be you and your baby getting to know and learn from EACH OTHER- not from a book.
I am not saying that a routine is totally useless. In fact, as mentioned before, babies tend to make their own routines. And, knowing that life is stable and rhythmic I think is actually very comforting to a baby or a child or anybody. But some babies need to nurse often. And even some babies that nurse less often SOMETIMES need to nurse more often. Listen to your baby. This is one of the beauties, the joys, and yes- sometimes even the difficulty of being a new mother. It can be hard to know what they need. It takes time, stillness and trusting yourself, but it can be done. Reading a book that delineates a schedule for ALL babies is not how it is done.
4. They seem to think that all babies are the same.
Well, some people are going to hate me for this, but I have noticed that some of these sleep experts have either no or only one or two children.
Let me give you a brief rundown of my children and their baby sleep habits.
Baby 1- Nursed often (like every hour or two) and for long periods, woke often, had colic for three hours a night from 6-12 weeks. Preferred to sleep with mom and dad. Didn't sleep through the night until almost three. As my first experience with motherhood and babies at all, I really and honestly could not read his cues very well.
Baby 2- Nursed about every three hours and quickly. Would only take one breast at a time. Absolutely would not sleep when being touched or in bed with mom and dad. Only nursed when hungry- never comfort nursed. Sucked her thumb and got attached to a blanket. Slept through the night by two months.
(Had I written a parenting manual at this time, I would have been very annoying. I was sure I had figured it all out and had created the perfect sleeper with my expert ways! Go me!)
Baby 3- Nursed well. By now I had stopped paying attention to when and how often and how long, but just could tell when she was done and when she was hungry or tired or whatever. Did not sleep well. Would wake and scream- not in pain, just in irritation that it wasn't play time. Would wake every two hours well past the age of one.
This was my reward for thinking I had figured it all out. In our bed- in her bassinet next to our bed, in another room- whatever- made no difference. She just didn't much care for long chunks of sleep. Swaddling, nursing, anything I tried- it just didn't work.
Baby 4- (She is still little.) Has been a good sleeper. Will wake a few times during the night but goes back to sleep. Likes to sleep in our bed. Naps well. Has made her own routine.
My point- kids are really just DIFFERENT. They don't read books and they don't always conform to them either.
~The trick of mothering isn't finding the expert who can train our babies. The missing link is not learning to control that evil or manipulative child. The trick is to learn our own babies. The point is to grow WITH them. I am not advocating permissive or completely child centered parenting. We must find a balance. But we must also realize that we miss the beauty and the empowerment of mothering when we learn it from books, rather than from ourselves and from our children.
Babies are not evil or manipulative. They are simply trying to communicate with us in the only way they know. Let's start listening.